Yugoslav presidential election scheduledrnfor September 24. The speed and seriousnessrnwith which the democratic oppositionrnin Serbia has managed to get its act togetherrnis both surprising and impressive,rnin view of its chronic divisiveness in thernpast. Its leaders have agreed on a jointrnpresidential candidate who will standrnagainst Milosevic. Dr Vojislav Kostunicarnof the Democratic Party of Serbia is theirrnchoice, which is a welcome development:rnHe is a politician of impeccable democraticrncredentials, keen intelligence, and highrnpersonal integrity. He has not compromisedrnhimself either by making deals withrnMilosevic (unlike Vuk Draskovic of thernSerbian Renewal Movement) or by beingrntoo subservient to the West (like, say, ZoranrnDjindjic of the Democratic Party). Hisrnconsistency and perseverance have finallyrnpaid off.rnThe subsequent attempt by Vuk Draskovicrnto undermine the long-overdue unityrnof the democratic opposition in Serbiarnby fielding his own presidential candidaternwill finally finish him off as a pofiticalrncontender of any stature. That is insignificantrnin itself; but it provides Milosevicrnwith the potential for fraudulent electoralrngames. By having a relative of the laternGeneral Draza Mihailovic (the presentrnmayor of Belgrade, Vojislav Mihailovic)rnrun as his locum tenens, Draskovic is hopingrnto keep his hat in the ring—^but at thernsame time he does not dare test his diminishingrnpohtical fortunes directly. Since hernwill therefore not run himself, Mr. Mihailovicrnis unlikely to gamer more thanrnthree percent of the vote. This may tip thernbalance in a tight race, allowing Milosevicrnto claim victory even on the first roundrn(regardless of the number of actual votesrncast), but the real problem created byrnDraskovic’s breaking of the ranks is that itrnallows the regime potentially to rig thernelection results.rnKostunica’s candidacy has caused nearpanicrnin those Westem (particularly American)rncircles that regard the survival ofrnMilosevic as the sine qua non of theirrnpresent and future Balkan strategy. SincernKostunica looks like a man with a realrnchance, the attack against him has beenrnbrutal. He is now described in State Departmentrnbackground briefings as an oldrnfashioned Serb nationalist, a sort ofrn”Seselj in coat-tails,” and thus unacceptablernas a partner in the “international community.”rnHis condemnation of last year’srnNATO bombing and his refusal to commitrnto cooperation with The Hague warcrimesrntribunal are pointed out as evidencernof his unsuitability. Worst of all,rnWestem news stories on the elections havernreferred to eveiy other politician by namernbut have carefully avoided mentioning thernone opposition leader who can actuallyrnwin.rnAt the same time, pro-Westem oppositionrnleaders in Belgrade are being soundedrnout on the possibility of selecting a new,rn”compromise” candidate who could uniternthe Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) ofrnDraskovic with the rest of the opposition.rnBut the effect of any such compromisernwould be predictable: The fragile unity ofrnreal opposition parties would be thrownrninto disarray yet again, while the electoralrnclock is ticking. At the same time, no lastminuternreplacement for Kostunica couldrnhave even a theoretical chance of winning.rnAccording to all opinion polls, including arnvery reliable sample in the newsweeklyrnVreme, he is the only opponent of Milosevicrnwith a real chance.rnIf the West is finally serious about replacingrnMilosevic and allowing Serbia tornfind its place in the community of nations,rnit should tell Vuk Draskovic to call off hisrnfarce and get on board with everyone elsernagainst the despot. Western diplomatsrnshould indicate that they are willing to exposernthe many skeletons in his closet—rnparticularly the corruption charges thatrnare well known in Serbia. Draskovic, arndeeply insecure man, would not want tornjeopardize Westem acceptance.rnIf the opposition stays united, Milosevicrnmay lose the election even without thernSPO on board. In that event, according tornour Belgrade sources, he would stop thernvote count if it was turning against him,rnproclaim a state of emergency (there hasrnbeen a spate of arrests of “foreign spiesrnand terrorists” in recent days), and mle byrndecree.rnIt is in the interest of the United Statesrnto have a new government in Belgrade andrnto seek a genuine long-term settlement inrnthe Balkans that would be just and equitable.rnIt is unreaUstic, however, to expect arnpolicy shift in that direction from the Clinton-rnGore administration in general, andrnfrom Mrs. Albright’s State Department inrnparticular. A more pragmatic, less ideologicallyrnrigid and morally bankrupt teamrnmay well be in charge six months fromrnnow, but by that time it may be too late:rnMilosevic will have secured himself anotherrn”mandate,” ensuring that the ordealrnof his long-suffering people continues unabated.rnThe Rockford InstituternCenter for International AffairsrnInaugural ConferencernNovember 4, 2000, Chicago, IllinoisrnFor more information, please callrnAaronWolf at (815)964-5811.rnOCTOBER 2000/23rnrnrn